The Inspirations: Lara Jade

February 29, 2012

Photography Credit: Oscar May

I’ve admired Lara and her work for a few years now. I’m not only incredibly enthralled by her fashion photography and attitude to business (and a tough business at that!) but the fact that she found ‘fame’ so young (she started sharing her self portraits online when she was just 14!) and has achieved so much all before her 23rd birthday.

‘Woah’ indeed…

Photography Credit: Oscar May

Hey Lara, for those of my readers who might not have heard of you can you introduce yourself – who you are, what you do, your journey to where you are today?

Of course! I’m Lara Jade, a fashion and advertising photographer from England currently residing in New York City. Like many young photographers, I took an interest in photography at a very young age (fourteen, in fact) purely by realizing that every other artistic medium frustrated me! I found photography after researching other artistic communities online, and during my school exams I experimented with it for my final project and was instantly hooked! In the beginning it was for fun, I’d experiment with costumes and disguises, placing myself in front of the camera as different characters (a la Cindy Sherman!) which enabled me to hone my skills and build my confidence to work with models and bigger styling teams. 

You recently moved from England to NYC, why did you do this and do you feel the move has benefited your career? What does NYC offer that London doesn’t? do you think you’ll stay there forever?

Truthfully, I was at a point in my life where I needed a change of pace and NYC offered this. I decided on moving there after visiting for the first time in February 2010, and realized the rush of the city and new culture was what I needed to regain my inspiration in my personal and work life. After my second trip to NYC in the summer of 2010, I worked hard on the goal of moving there, and a year later I was there! I can’t say I’ll be here forever, but you can never say never! I enjoy being able to have a home base and travelling from it, and it’s great to be in a place where there are likeminded creatives and a pulsing art/photography community.

What is it about fashion photography that you love and why did you want to shoot fashion instead of any other type of photography?

When I first started photography, I was only interested in conceptualized fine-art pieces and self-portraiture – something that offered meaning and was visually impactful. However, later on in my career; after having a taste of the London scene, I realized that fashion photography could have this effect too – it wasn’t just about selling clothes, it was also about selling a meaning or lifestyle, and so I combined the two things together, and started shooting fashion stories.

To many, fashion photography will seem like the impossible dream to work in, do you have any advice for anyone that wants to pursue this path?

I am definitely not going to say it’s easy! You have to develop yourself a lot personally and visually as an artist and offer something that is instantly recognisable – style is everything, and everyone is looking for the next big thing. However, if you have a great style and no networking, you’re never going to be noticed. Fashion photographers have to have a great body of work in their portfolio, as well as great social networking skills to be able to market themselves, so this is why it’s vital to understand the photography AND fashion industry as a whole.

You also have to be prepared for it to take time, this is normal – I invest a lot (of my time and money) back into my work, I’m constantly shooting new projects for my portfolio, traveling, and funding money back into equipment and studio time. You won’t necessarily see a return straight away, but as long as you understand this and you’re passionate about what you do, then you’re half way there!

What’s a ‘regular’ day for lara jade like?

That really depends on what I have going on! Lately I’ve been traveling a lot to and from London, for meetings and work, so I tend to divide my time between both sides of the Atlantic. When I’m in New York City, I’m usually at home working on e-mails, organizing shoots, developing my portfolio, arranging meetings, or connecting with other creatives or my styling team – it’s all about keeping the journey going and keeping on track of things. If I’m in London I’m usually working with my photography agency (who arrange meetings) and wandering around London back and forth for meets, or shooting personal or commissioned work. No two days are the same, but I like that. You have to make your day what it is, things aren’t just going to come to you.

Do you look back and think there is anything you wish you would have done differently? Would you have any advice for yourself if you could go back to the 14 year old lara? 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but unfortunately we can’t see into the future (as much as I’d like to!). There are plenty of things I wish I’d have known and done differently at the start, but all my experiences have helped me develop as an artist, I learn from my mistakes, and this has made me a better photographer. If I could give once piece of advice, it would be ‘not to worry, things come in time, just keep doing what you love!’ but of course, my fourteen year old self would not have listened to that!

You’ve achieved so much and you’re still only 22. do you feel its harder to be respected as a professional photographer because you are so young? Is there anything you do to overcome this or convince people that youre not just some kid playing photographer?

First impressions are everything and admittedly, yes, people often judge you when you come into meetings, but usually it’s on an appearance basis – I won’t let this get in the way of getting booked for work – I know what I’m talking about and I understand the industry very well, so usually when I meet a client, I tell them my journey and who I’ve worked for etc. and they understand where I’m coming from. I think it’s more common nowadays (especially with the social media and digital community aspect) that younger artists are becoming more and more acceptable. If people don’t get it, then that’s their loss, and it’s unfortunate that they haven’t yet opened their eyes. You can’t change people’s opinions, but you can do the best to your ability to show them that you’re right for the task at hand.

You got ‘famous’ through uploading your work to sites such as deviant art and flickr. Have you ever had your work stolen and do you worry about the implications of uploading un-wartermarked images to social media sites? How do you try to stop such thieves? Is it worth it for the exposure it brings?

This happens a lot, unfortunately – and you can’t really do anything to stop it because there’s always ‘a way around’ work to be shared or stolen. All you can do is know where you stand legally and if it’s worth fighting. I’ve had my work stolen by quite a few companies in the past, and even fought a legal battle in the US over a particular self-portrait which I fought purely on the grounds of showing people that stealing copyrighted work isn’t acceptable, and that we can do something to stand against these thieves. There is no good exposure gained (in my opinion) from these particular people that steal work.

Who or what inspires you?

Everything! I’m a very visual person, which is why I find it important to be around other creatives and live where I do. However, I will admit I am more inspired by timeless things – old paintings, black & white movies, childhood memories, old stories, and vintage décor to name just a few things!

Are you self taught or did you do any training? Are there any courses you’d recommend for someone wanting to get into fashion?

I attended college for two years in England for a diploma, but after leaving for university to study Visual Communication, I felt the educational aspect no longer suited me. Even through my few years of college I had already started developing my portfolio and was already signed with an agency in Italy, so I felt it was more of a restraint than it was a benefit – it was a hard choice but I decided to leave and move to London to get a head start in the industry. Don’t get me wrong, education is fantastic and each person has their own journey. I do think those few years in education really help develop you as a person, but in my opinion, it’s hard to teach photography style, this is something you have to develop separately through your own influences and experiences. I never assisted, but for those that want to get into the industry and dive into the deep end, assisting a working photographer will be ten times more beneficial than sticking to a 2-3 year university course, as you’ll constantly be learning while you work on set.

What are you most proud of to date?

Work-wise, I am constantly challenging myself so I can’t say I’m 100% satisfied with anything I’ve done that’s a month old or longer! I am proud when I challenge myself to a new technique, or when a client recognizes the effort I’ve put into a latest piece of work, but I think overall, I’m most proud of the move I made to NYC and the challenges I have completed along the way – I set myself a high goal, and was ecstatic when all my hard work paid off!

How did your own workshops come about? Have you got any coming up and how can people book on them?

I started teaching in December 2010 – it’s something I’ve always wanted to be involved in, and I like sharing my journey and learning style with others – it’s great to meet other creatives from all around the world and most importantly, we all have fun doing it! I teach my attendees that there’s no ‘one way suits all’ style, and that you don’t need to spend thousands of £ on equipment to get great results, I remind them of simplicity, and how great things can be achieved through the use of limited equipment and a great technique. The 2012 schedule is currently out on my website

Tell us about your joey l vs lara jade dvd? What’s the reaction to it been like? Do you have plans for any others?

The DVD is called ‘Lara Jade Vs Joey L: Photographer Shoot Off‘ and is essentially a ‘workshop-on-a-disc’; it’s filmed ‘reality show’ style, but instead of fake set-ups, it’s real behind-the-scenes footage of our own shoots and journeys along the way. We use a light hearted, comical theme – Joey L and I compete to find out which of us is the better photographer. We visit various locations around the world on set challenges to outshine one another, but what we come to realize is that there are no two photographers that can be compared because everyone has their own individual style. We also featured some of our retouching techniques and how we plan the shoot from start to finish.

We had a lot of fun making the DVD, and it took us just under two years of on and off work whilst working on other jobs, so it’s great to finally see it as a finished product! We’ve had a lot of great feedback thus far, which we’re really happy with. I would like to make another one (perhaps a separate one!) in the future but it wouldn’t be for a few years. The DVD store can be found at here.

How does attending one of your workshops differ to just buying the dvd?

Workshops are always going to be a personal experience and are more ‘hands on’. I think what attracts people to workshops is that you get individual attention from the photographer in regards to portfolio/photography advice and style. However, if people want to see how Joey and I work on our own jobs and deal with situations (and you want something you can refer back to time and time again) then the DVD is the one to have!

I can imagine that in such a highly competitive market like fashion there’s a lot of photographers that are willing to work for little or nothing just because they are desperate to do it. How do you deal with this and stop yourself from undervaluing/under charging for your services in order to compete?

This is something that is always going to be there and what most photographers don’t understand when they first start! Most editorial publications have limited budgets or none at all, so in most cases, you are working out of your own pocket to produce great work. What you have to remember is – where to put your investment and when you can judge the work as a waste of your time. If it’s something that’s going to benefit your portfolio and what might please a client in your next meeting, then do it! If it’s going to never show face in your portfolio and you’re just pleasing the client and you’re spending money for nothing, then it might be best to pass on the job. In the end, it’s all about developing and learning; even the best photographers in the industry are still working this way. When the right client comes along, they will pay correctly for your services, but you need to give them proof that you can complete the job successfully – this is where all the work you put into your portfolio development will pay off. I am constantly improving my portfolio and keeping it in trend by setting myself new shoots and challenges, investing my time and money into a new concepts and developing my brand; in return, clients recognise this and it helps get me considered for the client’s next job!

Photography Credit: Oscar May

All Photography Credit (except where stated): Lara Jade Photography